In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the restaurants and bars in Pune and the neighbouring twin-city of Pimpri Chinchwad have been closed down from six months, only takeaways and home deliveries were allowed during the period. Meanwhile, on Monday, the state government has permitted restaurants and bars to re-open from the first week of October.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday interacted with representatives of associations of restaurateurs from Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur via video conferencing and said that the state government has framed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for reopening of restaurants and a decision will be taken once these guidelines are finalised.
"The state government has framed SOPs for reopening restaurants and those have been sent to the people concerned. A decision about reopening restaurants will be taken once these (SOPs) are finalised," the statement quoted Thackeray as saying.
The Chief Minister said that given the COVID-19 threat, his government was taking steps cautiously and SOPs have been framed accordingly. The SOPs are not for putting restaurateurs in trouble, he added.
Thackeray also laid emphasis on wearing masks, cleaning hands and maintaining physical distance while living with COVID-19 and added these precautions need to be taken when restaurants are reopened. Initially, the restaurants and bars will re-open at 50 per cent capacity, with stringent health and hygiene norms, said reports.
"It will be important to take care of the health of chefs and other staffers in restaurants. They must wear masks, clean hands and ensure safety and cleanliness in restaurants," the Chief Minister said.
Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers’ Association (PRAHA) has welcomed the state government's decision of re-opening of restaurants and bars. Praful Chandawarkar, Managing Director of Chiranjeev Restaurants and committee member of PRAHA told Indian Express that they are now calling back their staff and the staff is also willing to come back as it is their only source of income. "We are going to be cautious as the pandemic is not over yet and it will not be over for the next two years, according to me. We can be cautious but can we can’t be shut for two years,” he added.
Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) Senior Vice-President Pradeep Shetty said, "Chief Minister (Uddhav Thackeray) was sympathetic towards the restaurant players for not being allowed to operate for over six months. He has indicated that his government will mostly allow the re-opening of restaurants but he has stressed on restaurants' responsibility towards their customers' health and safety after they reopen for business."
The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) said the announcement will bring in a huge relief to the industry that is reeling under a financial mess because of the lockdown. The industry is the second-largest employment provider with 60 lakh direct employment and 2 crore indirect employment, AHAR President Shivanand Shetty said.
Meanwhile, Pune city reported 779 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking its COVID-19 count to 1,42,915 on Monday. The death toll rose to 3,406 with 33 more patients succumbing to the infection.
In Pimpri Chinchwad, 554 COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday, taking the COVID-19 cases total to 76,633. 10 deaths were recorded during the day. Now, the death toll due to the infection is 1,290.
(With inputs from agencies)